Sunday, December 29, 2019

Welcoming 2020 With Hogs and Kisses!

It's time to welcome a new decade with 2020 being just on the horizon. So, how about launching the new year in the best possible - and auspicious - way? Pigs are considered "lucky charms" in Irish, Chinese, and German traditions, among many others. So this moment seems perfect to take a look at this precious pink porker who really knows how to move and groove. She'll undoubtedly put you in a celebratory mood!

This pretty piggy has enormous squeal-appeal. She's just about life-sized compared to a baby piglet, and equally as adorable. Pig is about 9" tall, 16" wide, solidly stuffed with excelsior, and made from soft pink mohair. She is arm and leg jointed. Her lifelike face is detailed with black shoe button eyes, a prominent muzzle, and an inset velvet tipped snout that has been airbrushed with pink nostrils and a mouth. Her pert ears are made entirely from mohair and are dimensional. Her true-to-scale tail is actually in a curly-Q as you would see in a live pig; it is lined in wire and is poseable. This queen of the barnyard retains her small long trailing "f" button as her Steiff ID. This pattern appeared in the line from c.1913-1918.

Jointed pigs are pretty rare in the Steiff line. As far as Steiffgal can tell, this example is just one of two produced prewar - or ever. The first debuted in 1908. This version had a ball jointed neck, as well as jointed arms and limbs. The ball jointed neck enables the head and neck to be twisted and rotated into different lifelike positions. This proprietary movement was invented by Franz Steiff and registered on May 24, 1908 in the German patent office as a "toy animal with movable head." According to company records, this was accomplished by... "attaching a swivel jointed mechanism to the head which was then secured to the body by means of a tube running from the neck to the torso." Steiff used this feature on a few models, including this pig, as well as polar bears, begging poodles, cats, and opossums. This uber-jointed piglet was produced in 14, 17, 22, and 28 cm through 1918 overall. The only one Steiffgal knows of came up for auction in 2018, you can see his listing here.

The pig under discussion here is the second jointed version. Steiffgal suspects that it was produced as a response to economic and marketplace realities of the era.  

*From a supply perspective, it is Steiffgal's best guess that the fully jointed pig with a ball jointed neck was probably pretty expensive to produce - given its complex engineering, unique internal hardware mechanism, and additional manual labor to sew, stuff, and assemble. It was a great product and idea, but somewhat resource intense to bring to life. 

*From the demand perspective, given its time in the line - which considerably overlaps with WWI - Steiffgal also suspects that many consumers did not have alot of extra cash or the inclination to purchase high end toys like this. As such, Steiff most likely simplified elements of their ball jointed pig pattern by removing a big cost/labor element of this design - the neck feature. This reduced the costs for all parties, and made this still-playful pattern a bit more accessible overall.

Pigs really “bring home the bacon” in Germany. There's a German expression, “Ich Habe Schwein Gehabt,” which roughly translates to “I have had pig,” that people say after personally experiencing something lucky or fortunate. This Germanic tradition dates back many centuries of hard times and refers to having enough food to feed a family. If a family had a pig, they were able to eat for a week or more! Today in Germany, pigs made from marzipan are popular holiday time treats and are often given out as little gifts on December 31st to insure luck in the coming year.

Steiffgal thanks you for letting her bend your ear over this fully jointed pig - and happy new year everyone!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

Monday, December 23, 2019

It's Time To Welcome The Big Man In Red!

Just in Claus you haven't noticed, its just a few hours until Christmas Day is upon us! And nothing says season’s greetings quite like the main man in red - Santa Claus - at least here in the United States.

Check out this page from a 1967 Steiff catalog featuring an almost life-sized Santa Claus doll. You can click on the image to make it bigger. Many collectors are familiar with the company's popular and beloved smaller Santa Claus dolls, which were produced in 13, 18, and 31 cm from 1953 through 1963 overall. This pattern was also made as a puppet. In the 1960s, Steiff produced this big fellow as a display piece in 150 cm, or about 5 feet. These supersized Steiff Santas were dressed to the nines in fine felt tailored suits trimmed in mohair - just like their rockstar namesake!

Today, these life-sized Santas are extremely rare, as for the most part, time has not been kind to them. Because their faces were made from rubber, they tend to dry out, sink, and crack as the years go by. As such, there are not too many of these still around. Steiffgal only knows of one, and he's having a rough go of it. And speaking of faces, it is interesting to note that the same facial mold used to create this display Santa was also used on the company's display sized shepherd and gnomes which were all produced at the same time as this Santa; you can see two of these "lifesized" gnomes here on the left. You can click on the image to make it bigger.

Steiff's Santa catalog page, like many of Steiff's vintage advertising images, is utterly charming, visually engaging, and tells a happy story. It is also fun to check out the other secondary items in the shot - those toys and articles placed around the featured article to help bring it to life. The selections often represent a "time capsule" of popular line items of the time, which is absolutely true in this case as well.

Santa's delightful deliveries from 1967 include:

*A caramel mohair “mask style" original Teddy bear (made from 1966-93 in sizes ranging from 11-100 cm overall.) 

*A grey mohair Snobby poodle (made from 1954-74 in sizes ranging from 10-43 cm overall.) 

*A white plush Diva cat (made from 1967-78 in 35 cm.) 

*A mohair giraffe (made from 1953-74 in sizes ranging from 14-75 cm overall.) 

*A brown mohair jointed Jocko monkey (made from 1949-81 in sizes ranging from 10-80 cm overall.) 

*A grey mohair Jumbo elephant (made from 1952-75 in 22 and 35 cm overall.) 

*A Mungo multicolored monkey (made from 1957-71 in 17, 25, and 35 cm overall.) 

*A tan wool plush camel (made from 1950-69 in 14, 17, 28, and 35 cm overall.)

Steiffgal ho-ho-hopes this life-sized discussion on Steiff's display Santa Claus has put you in a holly-jolly mood!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

This Steiff Tail-Moves-Head Dox Really Rocks!

Care to take a little paws from the holiday madness? That's probably an offer you can't refuse right about now! Then have a look at this darling Dachshund. He's truly a head-turner, in more ways than one! Here's why.

This arm and leg jointed Dox really rocks! He measures about 11 cm tall and about 19 cm wide, not including his tail. His paws, underbelly, face, and muzzle are made from orange tipped mohair. His ears, tail, back, and limbs are made from black mohair. He has three hand painted claws on each foot. His puppy-like face comes to life with a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, proportional black and brown glass pupil eyes, and a touch of black airbrushed highlighting. He retains his long trailing "f" button and traces of his red ear tag as his Steiff IDs. And his secret superpower? He's a rare, tail-moves-head example, meaning that when his long tail is rotated in either direction, his head follows suit! This pretty puppy appeared in the line in 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1931-1934 overall.

Dachshunds are legacy Steiff breeds, and have appeared continuously in the line in one form or the other since the late 1800s. This particular black and orange version was introduced in 1929 in the form of a 22 cm standing version. He also appeared on regular or eccentric wheels in five sizes ranging from 17 to 35 cm from 1929-1935 overall, and as a "detachable" variation in 18, 23, and 29 cm from 1936-1939 overall.  

This Doxie has several interesting design elements that align almost perfectly with his launch and production timeline. 

The first, and most obvious, is his tail-moves-head feature. Starting in the early 1930s, Steiff started to produce several of its most popular designs with a tail-moves-head feature. This Doxie puppy pattern, which reflects the late 1920s happy, childlike aesthetic Steiff is known for (think Molly, Charly, Pip, Bully, etc.) must have been a best seller at the time to merit this novelty upgrade. 

The second is his assembly. Doxie is made from two distinctly different mohair fabrics which are patched together. This type of construction was typical for the 1920s, and was more expensive and labor intense than simply making an item from one type of mohair, or airbrushing color(s) onto one type of mohair. For the most part, Steiff's patched construction was all but phased out by the late 1930s and replaced with more efficient production operations. 

And the third is his orange tipped mohair. Joyful, colorfully tipped mohair debuted in Steiff line in the mid-1920s. Items including rabbits, penguins, deer, and even gnomes featured similar orange tipped mohair through the late 1930s. There's no question that this playful fabric added a touch of whimsy to these very period products. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's two colored dachshund has been more than twice as nice for you.

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Sit and Stay With This Marvelous Prewar White Steiff Sealyham

Do you like things sealed with a kiss? Usually, there's never any downside to that, especially when it comes to all things button-in-ear. So grab a chair and take a look at this tiny sitting sweetie. You're certain to appreciate the leg up on what makes him (and his kissing cousin) so interesting from the pre-war product design perspectives.  

Your seat-mate for today's discussion is this charming sitting Sealyham. He is head jointed and made from white mohair that has mellowed to a vanilla color over time. He measures 10 cm high and 11 cm long, not including his sweet tail. His face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes. a black hand embroidered nose and mouth, and traces of pink airbrushing around his eyes and lips, He wears his original red collar and brass bell and retains his short trailing "f" button as his ID. Sitting Sealyham was produced in 8, 10, 14, 17, 22 and 25 cm from 1930 through 1939. The sitting version of this breed is somewhat rarer than the standing version as it was produced for fewer years. Given this petite pooch has short trailing "f" button, its a safe bet to conclude that he was made post 1935 or so.

Steiff's prewar Scotty and Sealyham dogs have much in common between their two patterns, including their looks, proportions, materials, and sizes produced. Clearly, Sealyhams were made in white, while Scottys were made in grey or black. Besides color, one small design difference between the two that Steiffgal has noticed are their eyes. From the ones she has seen, some prewar Scotty dogs have almond shaped glass eyes, while others have round glass pupil eyes... while all prewar Sealyhams seem to have round glass pupil eyes. 

So picture this! Check out the page from Steiff's 1938/39 catalog featuring Scotty and Sealyham dogs pictured here on the left. You can click on it to make it bigger. It is interesting to see that Scottys are noted on wheels (eccentric at 17 and 22 cm, and riding at 28 and 25 cm) on the breed page, while a Sealyham model on detachable riding wheels appears later on in the catalog, on a page promoting novelties. If you look at the bottom of the page, you see the words, "dasselbe Modell auch in weiss als Sealyham" under an image of a black Scotty. This translates to the "same model in white as Sealyham," further suggesting that the black Scotty and the white Sealyham are basically "cut from the same cloth." 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this tiny white pup has been on the up and up.

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.
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